How to Handle Religious Concerns

Many patient's religious beliefs and behavior may seem extreme or pathologic to the clinician. There was a time when modern psychologic thought considered almost all forms of religious expression a form of neurosis. Thankfully this time is past. However, now during a time of heightened spiritual yearning the issue assumes great relevance. Among some minority patients, rigidly held religious views are common and are not in and of themselves pathologic, although some fundamentalist Christian subgroups do have an antimedical, antipsychological bent. The leaders of some of these congregations may openly encourage troubled or mentally ill church members not only to seek cure in prayer but also to abandon all other nonprayer treatment. It is helpful to inquire of the patient whether these type of views are expressed by their church.

Some patients may have had personal religious experiences, especially contact with a divine presence that may markedly affect them and that seems puzzling to a clinician especially a skeptical clinician.

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